Changes in bacteria present in the lower respiratory tract during the first years of life may be indicative of early progression of lung disease in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.

The finding was reported in the study, “Initial acquisition and succession of the cystic fibrosis lung microbiome is associated with disease progression in infants and preschool children,” published in the journal PLoS Pathogens.

“Lung symptoms in kids with CF are likely due to an increased burden of bacteria,” Matthew Wolfgang, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at UNC Chapel Hill and senior author of the study, said in a news release.